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Out of the Closet

Andrea G. Schwartz
  • Andrea G. Schwartz,
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Not sure what it is about young people and the messy room. Or, better put, why is it that it takes me so long to do something about the hamper in my daughter's room that resembles the Tower of Babel and the "stuff" strewn on the floor that looks like the Slough of Despond? You'd think by this time I would have come up with a system to make this sort of question unnecessary.

But, you see, I thought I had. From the time my children were young, their own laundry was their responsibility, along with their own ironing. This means, of course, that they were in terrible straits when they ran out of clean or ironed clothing that was suitable for wearing. They were also responsible for seeing to it that their beds were changed regularly and that their room was dusted and vacuumed. As a homeschooling mom, I didn't have the time or energy to handle these tasks for them. Besides, I always figured it was a necessary part of growing up, to learn to take care of your own stuff. To this day, I believe my daughter-in-law appreciates that my son handles his own laundry.

In any case, this past weekend, my remaining child living at home announced to me that she was "fed up" with the condition of her room and that she was going to clean it. Now, you must understand that it isn't that big of a room. However, it has been her domain for the past 14 1/2 years and exclusively hers since 1999. Her biggest challenge was her closet which for the past I-don't-know-how-long, has teetered on an avalanche whenever she's opened the doors. It's not that she hasn't cleaned her room in years and years, but that the closet has been the recipient of anything she didn't quite know whether to save or relinquish. Throughout the day, as I was working on a number of writing projects, I was continually interrupted with yelps that went something like:

"I can't believe I forgot I had this doll! Remember her? I always LOVED her."

"Look, this is my baseball glove that I got as a present when I was seven. It no longer fits! I should have used it more."

"Can you believe this has been sitting in my closet for five years? I could still wear this hat!"

"I think we need to give away these six pairs of shoes. I tried, but I can't even get my foot all the way in any of them."

Periodically, I would stick my head in her room (or try to, since at times it was hard to get the door opened at all), and encourage her to shorten this stroll down memory lane and get her room to resemble more of a pleasant place to sleep than a declared disaster area. Repeatedly I needed to bring her back to the task at hand as she would bump into a memory long forgotten.

I must admit, I was extremely amused and encouraged by her response to all this. Here was my young lady enjoying the memories of her past -- cherished treasures, prized gifts, trophies won, and clothes she loved. By the end of the day, many of these memories were packed up and placed for another day and time when she would revisit them. Others were put in a pile to share with others. It was as though she was identifying that childhood was a memory -- a good one -- but that her life now involved things more in line with her age and maturity level.

As she made her twenty or so trips to the garbage and recycling bins, she informed me that she thought she got her "pack rat" mentality from me. She kept blaming it on genetics or environmental causes. "I just find it so hard to throw anything away," she pined. Then, she came with a box and asked me what to do with some rocks. "Let me see them," I responded figuring they were something of value that she'd been given as a present. Instead, they looked like the millions of other rocks and stones one would find in our back yard. "Why did you save these?" I asked her. "I haven't the faintest idea," she laughed back.

These are the kind of important moments that a mother relishes spending with her daughter. In years to come, I'm sure she may not even recall this day or its events. But for me, I'm storing them in the closet of my mind where I'll be able to "dig out" memories of a day when my daughter took another full step toward womanhood.